The Head Fours: Leander’s Cerised Lightening, A Bolt From The Light Blues

A Leander supporter observes one of the club’s crews boating from the British Rowing pontoon at Hammersmith.

14 November 2017

On Sunday, 12 November, 445 crews raced over the Mortlake to Putney course on the River Thames in London in the annual Head of the River Fours, run under British Rowing’s new competition framework.

Going to the start

Crew 359, Cambridge University’s Goldie BC ‘D’ crew, racing in 4+ Band 2, pass under Hammersmith Bridge. They eventually won their event, beating 26 other crews.
A view from Hammersmith Bridge looking towards Chiswick.
Passing under Hammersmith Bridge are Reading University ‘B’ (45), Bristol University ‘B’ (357), Sir William Borlase School ‘A’ (383) and Lea RC (221).

In a post-race press release from the organisers, Daniel Spring wrote:

Leander Club emphasised their dominance at the Fuller’s Head of the River Fours today by winning four of the six Open event pennants and finishing with 5 crews in the top 10 placings overall. Favourites for the win were the Leander quad of Nick Middleton, Tom Barras, John Collins and Angus Groom and they duly finished the fastest of the Band 1 Men’s Quads. However, it was the Leander Club U23 crew of Rowan Law, Jon Jackson, Harry Leask and Andrew Joel who were fastest overall, finishing 6 seconds ahead of their senior teammates. 3rd overall were Oxford Brookes University 5 seconds further back. In the Women’s quads the top Leander Club boat of Vicky Thornley, Katherine Copeland, Beth Bryan & Holly Nixon won comfortably by over 20 seconds despite breaking a blade on the way to the start and having to stop to borrow a set. Leander Club also took the wins in the Men’s and Women’s coxless fours and the Women’s U23 Quads.

Crew 43, Leander’s U23 4x- entry, return from the finish unaware that their time of 17:58:4 has put them ‘Head of the River’, remarkably beating the Leander 4x- Band 1 seniors in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ boats (the ‘A’ crew scratched).
Leander ‘B’ were first in 4x- Band 1 in a time of 18:04:4, but were pushed into second place overall by their U23s.
Oxford Brookes were first over the line but, with a time of 18:09:7, were placed second in 4x-Band 1 and third overall.
Leander ‘C’s time of 18:20:4 put them third in 4x- Band 1, and fourth overall.

In the first public showdown between the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race squads, it was the Light Blues of Cambridge who had the edge. The top Cambridge M4+ of Thomas Meeks, Spencer Furey, Rob Hurn, Freddie Davidson and cox Hugo Ramambason took the win in Band 1 Coxed 4’s, finishing 6th overall and defeating their Dark Blue rivals by 13 seconds. Worryingly for Oxford, the Light Blue’s coxed four finished 1 second ahead of their top coxless four. Cambridge (racing as Goldie) also won the Band 2 Coxed 4’s. In the women’s events, Cambridge also had the edge with their top 4+ of Kelsey Barolak, Alice White, Daphne Martschenko, Olivia Coffey and cox Sophie Shapter finishing 22 seconds ahead of the nearest Oxford boat.

Crew 4, Tideway Scullers ‘A’, were placed fourth in 4x- Band 1, and Crew 2, Upper Thames ‘B’, were seventh in this class.

In the junior events, St Paul’s School won the JM4+ for the 5th year in a row, and their win in the JM4X made them the first school to win both junior men’s events. In the women’s junior events, Henley Rowing Club also won both the JW4+ and JW4X, their 3rd double victory in a row.

Going for the line are Windsor Boys ‘A’ J18 4x- (56), Rob Roy U23 4x- (50) and Imperial College ‘B’ U23 4x- (54).
A touch of colour from Bath University U23 4x-.
A view from Putney Bridge of the finish line (running between Putney Pier on the left and the moored cabin cruiser on the right).
A mix of patterns in a Quintin W4x- Band 1 composite that has just crossed the finish line.

The bright and breezy conditions did cause difficulties for some crews, especially around Chiswick Steps as the strong cross-wind blew crews over to Surrey, resulting in a number of crews hitting a marker buoy. Worst affected were Eton College who collided with a marshal’s launch puncturing a hole in the boat.

Putney based Imperial College and Thames Rowing Club also had successful days with two wins apiece, Imperial taking the Band 2 W4x and W4- and Thames the equivalent men’s events. The University of Bristol also took two pennants with victories in the Band 3 M4+ and Band 2 W4+.

Returning home

After crossing the finish line, crews pass under Putney Bridge before they turn.
Some lucky crews returned to Putney, others may have had to row the entire course again before they were finished.

A view from London Rowing Club showing the Tideway in an apparently benign mood. Full results are on the HoR4s website, as is a history of the event.

Photographs and captions by Tim Koch. Apologies for the lack of pictures of women’s winning crews.

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